Congratulations – three weeks ago you made it through the early application deadline relatively unscathed.  Your essays were completed, your dream school was notified of your budding desire to attend, and you were awarded an eight-week break from the next impending deadlines.  For many students, these next eight weeks can be truly nerve-racking, especially considering the daunting question on every applicant’s mind: wait for early results, or begin regular applications now?


To answer this question, you need to objectively characterize the strategy you used in the early round.  There are two main strategies:

1)   You applied to a top target that you were relatively sure you would get into (and would want to attend), cutting your school list in half. Note that for any applicant, no matter how strong, applying to any top 15 schools cannot be considered employing this strategy.

2)   You applied to your dream school (which was a reach), because applying early afforded you the best chance of acceptance possible.


If you used the first strategy, and can objectively say that you will be accepted, then your work becomes a bit easier.  You can now eliminate all the schools below your early school on your school list and just focus on the ones above (if you were strategic, this should leave you with 3-4 schools).  After gaining your acceptance, you then can focus on these schools fully.

Because of the lack of pressure associated with strategy 1, you should aim to have just one additional school completed by the time you get your results in mid-December (or more if you’re particularly motivated).  Choose your top school and finish it first before moving on to any others.  The outcome of this strategy is that you already have a top school on which to fall back and can thus focus your energy on the remaining few schools that truly excite you.

If you used the second strategy (most likely 90% of students reading this post), you face a different decision matrix.  Your chance of being accepted is, well, the early acceptance rate of the school.  Of course your high SAT score and stellar extracurriculars help, but for the top 15 schools it is pretty much impossible to say that you unequivocally will be accepted.


If you’re feeling burned out post early round, it can be easy to decide to just wait for your results before starting new essays.  But here’s why this is a fundamentally flawed idea:

1)   The time crunch. Writing your early application probably took 1-2 weeks if you were quick.   Writing the same quality essays for another 7 schools in that same time period to meet regular deadlines is extremely difficult.  If you are not accepted, you will likely not finish your essays on time, or will not have had enough time to adequately write them, decreasing your chances of acceptance in the regular round.

2)   The uncertainty factor.  If you were rejected/deferred, you don’t have any indication of how you stack up.  In short, you weren’t accepted, so you now have no idea what your lower bound is.  You may have a current school list that includes HYPS, but that rejection from Cornell will force you to rethink that.  Having not written any essays, you’ll be forced to generate new material for a whole host of different schools due to the uncertainty of where you stand.  This also contributes to a heightened sense of stress.

3)   The sadness effect.  College rejections are unemotional, but that doesn’t mean they don’t sting.  If you are deferred/rejected from your dream school, this subconsciously will decrease your resolve and stamina in these crucial last few weeks.  Attempting to then write upwards of 15 essays for a bunch of schools that were lower on your list than your dream school will then be emotionally draining and unfulfilling, substantially decreasing the essays’ quality and possibly losing you more acceptances.  Thus, it’s best to get those essays out of the way before any impending sadness to ensure they are of the same quality as your first batch.


While these next few weeks are definitely difficult, push through the remaining work through January 1st.  Not only is it the best strategy to ensure maximum acceptances, but also it will keep you sane despite what happens in the early round.  To all applicants, we continue to wish you the best of luck!

Zack Perkins

Zack Perkins

Zack was an economics major at Harvard before going on indefinite leave to pursue CollegeVine full-time as a founder. In his spare time, he enjoys closely following politics and binge-watching horror movies. To see Zack's full bio, visit the Team page.
Zack Perkins